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What's The Difference Between Customer Service And Customer Experience?

Steve Surdez

We’re laser-focused on discussing the importance of developing, executing, and measuring the customer experience (CX), which is the new battleground where brands duke it out for market share. Check out our recent blogs on the topic for a primer on the customer experience.

Now's the time to bring things full circle and look at customer experience in the context of customer service, which we haven't directly addressed yet.

If you’ve read our other blogs, you likely have a strong sense of various aspects of the customer experience. You likely also know that customer service is a key part of shaping a customer’s perception and emotional connection to your brand.

What’s the difference between customer service and customer experience? It’s an important distinction to draw. Without a clear understanding of the distinction between these two facets, it’s difficult to create a strategy that'll work.

First, let’s define each term as a jumping off point for the larger discussion:

The Customer Experience:

How customers perceive their interactions with your company. The User Testing Blog offered a great, succinct definition of the customer experience: “In other words, CX is about providing a useful, usable, and enjoyable experience to every customer, on every device, across every touchpoint—in a way that fulfills on the expectations that you set and the promises you made.”

Customer Service:

Investopedia defines customer service like this: “Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. Often, customer service takes place while performing a transaction for the customer, such as making a sale or returning an item. Customer service can take the form of an in-person interaction, a phone call, self-service systems, or by other means.”

Distinction No. 1

The first thing to understand is that the customer experience is a measure of the totality of an individual’s experience of your brand.

Customer service is one aspect of the customer experience that also includes in-store experiences, social media engagement, website interactions, and any other interface they have with your brand.

Customer service is one part-albeit an important one-of the CX delivery system. Understanding this is critical to creating and executing a great experience platform.

Distinction No. 2

Following the first distinction, a helpful way of looking at the difference is that customer service used to be the customer experience. Today, it's one strand in a complex web of customer engagement points.

Before the advent of the Internet, and even in its earliest iterations, customer service influenced a customer’s perception of a brand. Engagement points were typically an in-store experience or a phone conversation.

Today, omni-channel engagement is the norm and a customer can interface with your brand across a vast spectrum of media types and platforms, including in-store experience and one-on-one dialog with live service agents.

Again, the paradigm flipped from customer service as customer experience to customer service as on cog in the customer experience machine.

Distinction No. 3

Generally speaking, CX is a proactive strategy consistently pushed out to customers. Customer service is more reactive, as a customer has an issue and engages your brand to solve a problem. The customer experience, if done well, should proactively limit the number of issues that arise and ultimately reduce the instances of reactive customer service.

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Even the best customer experience strategies can’t completely eliminate customer issues or problems, but it certainly can help. AMEYO notes the following about this relationship: “...a business can take action to optimize the customer journey before the customer becomes dissatisfied. Customer experience is a holistic approach that goes beyond customer service and takes into account the overall customer journey by building long-term relationships with customers.

According to McKinsey, companies focused on providing a superior experience across customer journeys realized a 10-15 percent increase in revenue and a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction.”

Now, we need to qualify our statement that customer service is reactive. It is, for sure, and when customer service isn't anchored by an effective customer experience strategy, it becomes negatively reactive. The nature of customer service is reactive.

However, how your customer service staff (or bots, for that matter) executes your CX strategy in that reactive moment is critical to keeping your customers happy and coming back.

In summary, customer service is one part of your customer experience. The customer experience is the collective perception of your brand that's generated by engagement experiences. By creating a powerful customer experience strategy and executing it consistently across all engagement channels, including customer service, your business will retain its customers, win repeat business, garner more high-quality referrals, and increase revenues and customer lifetime value.

If you’re ready to develop or reimagine your customer experience strategy, we can help. Illumine8 Marketing & PR helps organizations create, maintain, and tweak their branding and customer experience platforms to maximize customer loyalty, increase repeat business, and amplify brand reach to generate new high-converting leads.

Reach out to us today. We’d love to discuss your vision and how you see your company getting there. 

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